Lord, I Know Already, Help Me Do

What is the purpose of preaching? Is it to increase knowledge or provoke akSHUN? Randy Nabors thinks the latter:

We don’t need more didactic moments that simply tickle the minds of those who thirst for more information; we need the forming of the heart though great sermons powerfully delivered. People need truth that shapes hearts into the obedience that comes through faith so people can be doers of the Word and not just hearers of it.

But what if the average Christian believer is someone who is prone to think either that sin, temptation, the devil, and the flesh have overwhelmed him the previous week? What sort of sermon does that person need? A call to obedience? Maybe. But can such a call make sense to someone who knows how sinful and weak he is? Might the person in the pew need to hear about God’s work in sanctification even if it is a tad didactic?

Or what about the average believer who lives life like a pilgrim, someone in exile, hardly in command of his affairs, but weak, frail, and in need of a reminder that God has saved him and controls all things?

In other words, Nabors seems to think of Christians as people who are in control of life and need simply to be hectored into living Christian lives. He doesn’t seem to allow that Christians come to church thinking that they believe, but are tempted to unbelief precisely when they take life and its duties into their own hands.

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20 thoughts on “Lord, I Know Already, Help Me Do

  1. The Church is the bride of Christ. Eph 5 then tells us what that marriage looks like. Now think of your own marriage. What causes a wife to WANT to submit to her husband? Is it a demand from the pulpit that she submit to her husband? Or is it the love of her husband that conquers her heart?

    What causes Christians to obey Jesus? It is the love of Christ that compels us. “We love because he first loved us.”

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  2. How to turn the answer to antinomianism into antinomianism:

    But “your progress in sanctification, your growth in godliness is just as much God’s work in you as is his freely justifying, pardoning and accepting of you on the basis of Christ’s work” is REALLY, REALLY good news.”

    It’s all God. It’s all grace. It’s all good.

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  3. DG: What is the purpose of preaching?
    the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 1 Tim 1:5

    DG: tempted to unbelief
    tempted to unbelief …period, the war this side of eternity
    The message- from beginning for believers: ” Return to the Lord your God ”…- to the end – “You have left your first love -repent”, remains unchanged
    And the whole Bible counsels about this life of faith in Christ – from beginning to end. If you have time, read it all, have less time – Rev 2-3 exhortation summarized here:
    -left your first love? – repent,do the deeds you did at first
    -do not fear what you are about to suffer
    -be faithful until death
    -hold to Balaam, the Nicolaitans, Jezebel teachings? – repent
    -dead? -wake up, strengthen the things about to die
    – remember what you’ve received and heard; and keep it, and repent.
    -hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.
    -lukewarm and don’t know you are wretched,miserable, poor,blind ,naked?- buy from Me gold refined by fire
    -be zealous and repent
    -hear My voice? open the door
    -he who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
    and all that above, and all the Bible, is not opposed to but = to what you both say: ie It is the love of Christ that compels us, We love because he first loved us, It’s all God, It’s all grace…. because God cannot lie.

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  4. Those familiar with Mr Nabors know that part of the action he wishes to see involves social justice and racial reconciliation — areas of emphasis which have no shortage of instructions, chidings, and programming, not to mention heavy doses of guilt.

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  5. Bradley Green, Covenant and Commandment, 2014, IVP, p 80 “The atoning work does not merely allow us to cross a line from death to life. It gives US real ability to obey”

    Schreiner, Romans, 2008, p 405—“The work of Christ on the cross creates the platform on which believers receive the ability to keep the law.”

    Rosner, Paul and the Law 2013, IVP, p 123–“The fulfillment of the law is not only accomplished for believers, but also THROUGH believers.

    Moo on Romans, 177—“The faith granted the believer is the cause of those works that God takes into account at the time of the judgment.. The works are the product of the justifying faith and not the basis for justification itself. The justifying faith itself is the basis for justification itself.”

    Beeke and Jones (In their conclusion to the chapter in ‘A Puritan Theology’ on Covenant Conditions)– Being in covenant with God, the believer is required to believe and keep God’s commandments. Therefore the pursuit of holiness and practice of righteousness are also conditions, but they are consequent to the initial exercise of faith.’ (p.318)

    http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/against-law/

    Mark Jones: “Today, many understand Christ’s words in Matthew 5:20 (“unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees”) in a similar way. Yet, Christ is NOT here speaking of His own imputed righteousness. The Pharisees did not actually keep God’s law; rather, they left the commandments and held “to the tradition of men” (Mark 7:8). Those described in Romans 8:4 surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees because their obedience is Spirit-wrought and far more extensive.”

    John 1:38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.

    I am told that this means that we have to come before we see, that we have to commit before we can understand, that we will never know until we first repent and commit. But this is not what this text says.

    “Come and see” is not giving some kind of order for salvation, in which implicit faith is endorsed, or where our “obedience” is more important then learning who Christ is. It is a mistake to take information about redemptive history and turn these facts into some kind of existentialist “application” about what we do here and now.

    John 7: The brothers of Jesus said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. 4 For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For not even his brothers believed in him.

    Most of us are very invested in our works, our visible witness to the world. Some of us even think we will show the world what the gospel is without words, simply by what we do and by not being sinners like other people are.

    Matthew 5:16 let your light shine before others, so that they see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

    Our light is the gospel of grace (not works). Only by the light of the gospel can others l see that our faith is NOT in our works to prove our faith and that our “assurance” is NOT in our “living the gospel”

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  6. Jonathan Edwards, 2:902—-“Every vessel that is cast into this ocean of happiness is full, though there are some vessels larger than others”

    Mark Jones, Antinomianism, p75—“Turretin argues that all in glory will be equal. However, Jonathan Edwards disagrees. In his sermon on “The Portion of the Righteous”, Edwards argues not only for degrees of glory, but also for different degrees of happiness. Moreover, Edwards claims that the degrees of happiness will be in ‘some proportion to the saints’ eminency in holiness and good works.while on earth”

    Mark Jones—”His sending of the Spirit is the guarantee that His labor was not and will not be in vain. In this sense, Christ “needs” our good works!” http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2014/06/christ-is-most-satisfied-when.php

    John 7:15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.

    John 7:15 is NOT teaching that learning is not important. That would be ironic indeed–learning that learning is not important. Nor is John 7:15 teaching that learning depends on us doing God’s will, or on OUR “wanting to” do God’s will. Can we do God’s will before we know what God’s will is?

    But there is such a thing as “dead works” in which our doing is an abomination to God. Any doing done in order to get God to bless us is doing that God hates. Such doing always despises doctrine and information about Christ and His work. Such doing is self-righteousness, and that self-righteousness is sin, something of which to be ashamed (Romans 6: 21 So what fruit was produced then from the things you are now ashamed of? For the end of those things is death. )

    We can’t do stuff in order to start believing, because we need to repent of our doing. Not only do we need to repent of doing what God never commanded us to do, but also we need to repent of any doing which displaces faith in what Christ has already done by His death and resurrection. This is why we should not turn the good news into imperatives. The gospel is not the law. The “broad gospel” which includes the law is not the gospel.

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  7. McMark, “there is such a thing as “dead works” in which our doing is an abomination to God.” Is that Jones?

    I’m not sure God is wild about filthy rags. I know I’m not.

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  8. Nabors makes the very common false dichotomy between mind and heart. In Scripture man thinks with his heart. And while intellect, emotions and will as faculties of the soul can be distinguished, from the standpoint of scriptural anthropology they cannot be sharply separated. Human beings are wholistic creatures, with the “heart” being not the emotions as such, but the control center of man’s personality.

    D.G. Hart: “But what if the average Christian believer is someone who is prone to think either that sin, temptation, the devil, and the flesh have overwhelmed him the previous week? What sort of sermon does that person need?”

    GW: All Christians (average or not) need to hear law and gospel — especially gospel. The good news of God’s forgiveness in Christ must always be kept before us. And, contrary to Nabors, this involves didactic gospel preaching. And contrary to Nabors straw-man about didactic preaching merely “tickling the mind”, faithful didactic gospel preaching feeds the soul and stimulates Spirit-wrought, gratitude-motivated obedience.

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  9. CW: “Those familiar with Mr Nabors know that part of the action he wishes to see involves social justice and racial reconciliation — areas of emphasis which have no shortage of instructions, chidings, and programming, not to mention heavy doses of guilt.”

    GW: While often well-intentioned, moralistic preachments that dole out a heavy dose of guilt do nothing more than promote phariseeism, self-righteous pride and (at its worst) a works-righteousness gospel which is no gospel at all.

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  10. CW is correct. For Nabors, “obedience” = cultural transformation, redeeming the city, racial reconciliation, etc. Sadly, such sermons are nothing more than presentations of the law – do this and God will be pleased with you. I wish that this was an isolated example in the PCA but it isn’t – there are quite a few people saying similar things.

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  11. Dave, I don’t say that Randy is not orthodox. He is really the father of what I would call progressivism in the PCA. He was — in some ways — Keller before Keller, though Randy is much more gritty than TKNY. His church has/had a logo that always struck me as people of three different skin colors fighting over a cross. I’m sure that wasn’t the intention.

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  12. CW,

    Yep about Nabors. He and guys like Barry Henning (New City Fellowship in St. Louis, Missouri) and Craig Garriott (Baltimore) have been beating this drum for years. With two of the three in major centers of the PCA (Chattanooga and St. Louis) they’ve managed to have a great influence as well as get backing from PCA leadership. I think the PCA leadership has tried to meld the theology of Keller and Nabors together. What’s lost in this is Word and Sacrament ministry (ordinary means of grace ministry).

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  13. “But there is such a thing as “dead works” in which our doing is an abomination to God. Any doing done in order to get God to bless us is doing that God hates. Such doing always despises doctrine and information about Christ and His work”—That’s Mark McCulley. It seems to me that those I quote above who teach our “works” as needed for the “future aspect/stage of justification” think that the “dead works” category is only for others (pharisees) and since their own “works” are not “autonomous” or “meritorious”, they themselves have nothing to worry about.

    Hebrews 6:1– “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God”

    Hebrews 9:14–”How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

    The problem with using works “done after you are in the family” to get assurance is that works done without assurance are not pleasing to God. The light of the gospel exposes our morality and our obeying as “dead works”. And “dead works” are sins.

    John 3:19– “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

    Certainly God commands us all to be moral. But morality can be done in the flesh. To doubt that you will be justified because of what you have done or not done is to take the focus away from Christ’s once for all time finished death for elect sinners.
    http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/09/in-defense-of-piper.php

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  14. dgh—“What about the average believer who lives life like a pilgrim, someone in exile, hardly in command of his affairs, but weak, frail, and in need of a reminder that God has saved him”

    According to the Gaffin wing of the OPC, your problem is that you have reduced salvation to justification and forget that you are “united to His resurrection”. http://www.opc.org/os.html?article_id=540&cur_iss=Y

    David Garner– “A not-guilty verdict of an Almighty Judge does not make the criminal a son.”

    mcmark–And thus “justification” is reduced to forgiveness and not guilty. And the teaching of forensic co-death with Christ so that the justified elect are “justified from sin” (Romans 6:7) is transformed into saying that since Christ was transformed by death, we shall be transformed. No, it is not said that Christ became regenerated or that Christ became united to God, but is said that Christ’s death is NOT “merely” about “sin not having dominion because or noting being under law” (Romans 6:14) but instead about Christ being adopted and becoming the Holy Spirit (in terms of economic agency, in terms of atonement)

    David Garner—“There is ….no conferral of redemptive blessing not attained by the Personal Source of redemption himself. The vital and intimate union between the sons and the Son remains unyieldingly robust….In Christ the forensic and the transformative are ONE. Justification, sanctification, and glorification are ONE. Declaratory, transformatory and consummatory COALESCE in this resurrection.” The manner in which the apostle Paul aligns resurrection and adoption requires that we affirm this coalescence with Christ’s newly attained sonship.

    mcmark—That “believer who thinks he is weak and needy” needs to be given some information about “union with Christ’s resurrection” so that they will know that they are transformed and can transform. Instead of getting stuck on the cross and the death of Christ, that “average believer” of yours needs a theology of glory and resurrection. If they are taught the history of Israel (which equates to the history of redemptive transformation) , then they can forget any difference between DOING law and KNOWING gospel, because now that they are adopted, the definition of faith as “not works” has been eliminated, as has any other “narrow” focus on justification by grace and not by law.

    David Garner—“Adoption then functions as no synonym for an ASPECT of union like JUSTIFICATION, but offers rather a complex metaphor entailing his divinely declared and transformed identity at his resurrection.”

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  15. Mark Jones (Antinomianism).— “God cannot help but love us more and more if we become more and more like him… Major Premise: Those who keep God’s commandments love Christ. Minor Premise: By the grace of God, I keep God’s commandments. Conclusion: I love Christ ”

    Mark Jones —“The examination of our justification by our sanctification, is not only a lawful, and possible, but a very excellent and necessary work and duty”

    Mark Jones–“When a sharp distinction is maintained between the law and the gospel in the Christian life, the first use of the law tends to replace the third use of the law as its primary function. Despite claims to the contrary, the law takes on a decidedly negative tone in the preaching and writing of those who hold to such a sharp distinction.”

    Luther— “The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it” (LW 31, 57).

    Brother Martin Luther, Master of Sacred Theology, will preside and Brother Leonhard Beier, Master of Arts and Philosophy, will defend the following theses before the Augustinians of this renowned city of Heidelberg in the customary place. In the month of May, 1518.
    “Although the works of man always appear attractive and good, they are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins.
    Although the works of God always seem unattractive and appear evil, they are nevertheless really for good and God’s glory.
    The works of God (we speak of those which he does through man) are thus not merits, as though they were sinless.
    The works of the righteous would be mortal sins if they would not be feared as mortal sins by the righteous themselves out of pious fear of God.
    By so much more are the works of man mortal sins when they are done without fear and in unadulterated, evil self-security…. it is very difficult to see how a work can be dead and at the same time not a harmful and mortal sin.”

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  16. This sounds like the same pre-programmed junk the Gospel Coalition now cranks out routinely. What we need is good preaching. Any good preaching…. doctrinal, applicatory, etc. As long as it is good. If we have to go to management-type seminars to learn how to target sermons, or know ‘how’ to worship, or ‘gospel-saturate’ our churches using our ‘gospel-cebtered Bibles,’ good grief.

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  17. Pope Francis as obedience boy:

    “To be a Christian means to do: to do the will of God. And on the last day — because all of us will have one! — that day what shall the Lord ask us? Will he say: ‘What you have said about me?’ No! He shall ask us about the things we did.”

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  18. Pope: On that day what shall the Lord ask us? Will he say: ‘What you have said about me?’ No! He shall ask us about the things we did.”

    don’t what to support that.. but critical, though, THINKing …. how “what have you said about me (Jesus)” = the “things we ‘did’” , so as not to be of those who profess to know God, but by deeds deny Him (Titus 1:16); being of those when the Son of Man comes, found with true faith (Luke 18:8); not demon- kind (James 2:19); but genuine faith, which holds fast His name and does not deny His faith (Rev 2:13); and, praise the Lord, so it will be for His own possession, for He has given to His bride to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints ( Rev. 19:8)

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  19. Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in Heaven.”

    Does Jesus teach legalism? Norman Shepherd appeals to this verse because he believes that Jesus does in fact teach salvation by doing .The central problem in verse 21 is the meaning of Jesus’ phrase– he who does the will of my Father in Heaven. Shepherd believes that that phrase means works. But that interpretation implies that the Bible contradicts itself. That interpretation of the phrase cannot be correct, because of what Matthew 7: 22 says— Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name?

    If Jesus’ point in verse 21 were that faith is not enough, that good works, or covenant faithfulness, or obedience is also necessary in order to be sure we are saved, then Jesus should have said something like this in verse 22: Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, we trusted in you alone, we had faith in you alone, we believed the Bible and your words.’ Instead, Jesus reports that many people will appear before him at the Judgment and will talk about their works, not their faith or correct doctrine. But these people-the ones who present works-will be excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven.
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/justandsinner/the-problem-with-mark-jones-fight-against-antinomianism/

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